FRONTENAC — After a year of preparation, Frontenac School District was approved for a grant to help build multipurpose classrooms which will also serve as storm shelters.

USD 249 Frontenac was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for $1,780,000 in Hazard Mitigation Grant Funds. The grant will be used to build two multipurpose safe rooms at Frontenac High School and Frank Layden Elementary School.  

The district will pay for the non-federal match requirement of $667,282 for the structure and expenses to operate classes within the multipurpose classrooms — including paint, flooring, ceiling tile, desks, cabinets and lights.

The total expected cost for the project is approximately $3.5 million.

Frontenac Superintendent of Schools Rick Simoncic said the district is not planning to do a bond issue, instead everything will be paid for through savings and capital outlay. No taxes will be raised for this project.

The school, which is a complex of an elementary, junior high and high school, does not have any concrete roof shelters. The district is currently using interior classrooms during severe weather.

Along with education, safety is one of the districts top priorities, Simoncic said.

“The idea is to build something we know is going to be safe for students and staff,” he said.

The additional rooms will help relocate elementary classes, and others, which have migrated into the junior high and high school. The new rooms will also create an official classroom space for special education classes.

Last year was the highest enrollment the district has ever had, Simoncic said, and the additional space could be used. The Frontenac School Board of Education made the decision to cap classes at 80 students to keep classes at a certain size.

The district has 750 days to complete the project and the district is working with architects and developers to put plans in place. Simoncic said beginning of construction could take nine months to a year to start.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.